EPFL engineers develop a computer chip with logic and data storage on a single architecture

Shane McGlaun - Nov 6, 2020, 7:47am CST
EPFL engineers develop a computer chip with logic and data storage on a single architecture

Engineers at EPFL have made a breakthrough in electronics with the development of a computer chip combining logic operations and data storage into a single architecture. The breakthrough paves the way for more efficient computing devices in the future. The breakthrough came from the EPFL’s Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures.

Engineers say the architecture could have major benefits for artificial intelligence systems. The tech is the first to use a 2D material for a logic-in-memory architecture. That architecture combines both logic and memory functions. The energy efficiency of computer chips is traditionally limited by the von Neumann architecture currently used with data processing and data storage in two separate units.

Having data processing and storage in separate units means data has to be transferred continuously between the two using up time and energy. Combining processing and storage into a single architecture allows a reduction of both time and energy consumed. The 2D material EPFL made the chip from is called MoS2, a 2D material consisting of a single layer three atoms thick.

That material is an excellent semiconductor, and engineers had previously studied the material’s properties, finding it well-suited to electronics applications. The chip is based on floating-gate field-effect transistors. Transistors of that sort can hold electric charges for long periods and are traditionally used in flash memory storage devices for computers and phones.

Properties of MoS2 make it sensitive to charges stored in those transistors allowing engineers to develop circuits that can operate as memory storage units and programmable transistors. Researchers on the project say the circuit design has multiple advantages. It reduces energy loss associated with transferring data between memory units and processors and reduces the amount of space required. The team believes the breakthrough opens the door for smaller, more powerful, and more energy-efficient devices.

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